When I consider whether a show is worth watching there are three main factors I take into consideration: quality, entertainment factor, and the overall message.
Mary and the Witch's Flower was produced by Studio Ponoc, formed by former members of Studio Ghibli and directed by Academy Award-nominated Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It is based off of The Little Broomstick by the Scottish Mary Stewart, which is why it has a very Nothern atmosphere. Though originally released mid 2017 in Japan, Mary and the Witch's Flower only reached Australia on the 18th of January with dubs and subs both available.
As to be expected from former Ghibli staff, the production
quality is excellent. The character designs are well done and modern, the artwork and animation is very impressive and the soundtrack, by Takatsugu Muramatsu who also did the music for When Marnie Was There and Yuasa's Lu Over the Wall, is appropriate and grand. The soundtrack and visuals contribute greatly to the atmosphere and the impression we have of magic. The mark of a well directed movie is if it's easy to follow what is going on. An example of this concept done poorly is The Last Jedi, which was difficult to follow and was not exciting when exciting things were happening on screen. Mary and the Witch's Flower doesn't have any of those problems; the movie flows well and everything is clear.
The character of Mary is the polar opposite of Anna from When Marnie Was There (the Academy Award-nominated Yonebayashi film). Very energetic, tries to do everything, doesn't give up even when she's being a burden, etc. This works well to tell the story, especially since Mary is thrown into a place that she doesn't understand whatsoever. Willingness to try new things and having no earthly idea what is going on is a smart writing technique to introduce the world and important characters since it doesn't have to be preachy or on-the-nose with exposition. However, there is an exposition scene towards the end which didn't need to happen and opened up holes in the plot in the build up to that exposition. Unfortunately, although Mary works well as the lead, none of the other characters seem to have much to them. There are the generic antagonists who want more power but are technically not evil, the boy who will inevitably become important and befriend Mary, a plot convenience talking fox thing that shows up at suspiciously optimal times and solves too many problems for what little character he has, and Mary's grandmother who has two scenes and does nothing useful. Peter, who is an important plot point but a relatively uninspired character who didn't get enough screentime early on, has too much emotional payoff around him for how little he has to his character. This makes the climax slightly awkward.
The writing is on and off. Most of the plot is decent enough, but magic is poorly explained. This shouldn't normally be a problem, because magic isn't supposed to make sense, but the magic academy has some form of magic-infused science which has clear rules. Poorly explained magic in a world where there are rules and scientific principles is not excusable. Inconsistent uses of magic happen a fair amount in the latter half of the film and can detract from the immersion because of how noticeable it is. The motivations of the antagonists is directly related to the theme of the movie, which was that progress at all costs is a bad thing. The film deals with the antagonists in a goofy and whimsical way. There is quite a lot about the film that is whimsical, including character interactions between Peter and Mary, a joke which takes 45 minutes to finally get the punchline, any time Mary uses a broomstick or when there is an escape sequence. It's never a big issue but it wasn't balanced too well with the substantial parts of the movie, which were lacking.
This movie is primarily aimed at children and young girls. For that audience, Mary and the Witch's Flower will be a blast. The magic, thanks to the visuals and sound, is impressive and wondrous. The opening scene of the movie is exciting and the lighting is well done. It starts of the movie well, though it's a big tonal shift going from exciting magic to watching an ordinary 12 year old girl do ordinary things. There's enough going on in the plot that you probably won't get bored.
The problems come with the inconsistencies with magic and the plot holes accompanying them. They can ruin the immersion, take you out of the scene and annoy you. The exposition scene towards the end is another mistake because it involved telling us things we already knew. The exposition is likely necessary for children to understand how scenes connect, but the exposition didn't tell us anything we didn't know or anything we needed to know. As far as exposition goes, it was poor. The most fun parts of the movie are where magic is being used to do all sorts of cool things. Luckily, this is the entire second half of the movie.
The core messages were along the lines of "progress at all costs is not worth it" and "you shouldn't change yourself for the sake of change". The messages were clear and shown visually in the latter half. They are well executed because they aren't preachy about it and don't monologue about what the message is and what they learned. For the intended audience, the messages are appropriate and could apply directly to them.
There are some smaller messages, like that you shouldn't abandon what you care about, not to ab use power and that you should take responsibility for the things you cause, but they aren't emphasised at all and are off cuts of the main meal. Of course, there is that one scene where a cow-person is carving up some meat to serve as food, which is quite morally reprehensible. Mary and the Witch's Flower is simple and you shouldn't expect anything else. It does enough to be engaging and somewhat impressive, but not enough to be fantastic and has too many flaws to become a classic or cult-classic.
Should you really watch Mary and the Witch's Flower?
Just saw メアリと魔女の花, "Mary and the Witch's Flower". I thought it was a good movie, very good for a studio's first movie, but it leaves me feeling that there could have been a lot more. I also have some major questions. The biggest one is, you are at a magic school, and you showed all of these students... where are they when all this stuff goes down? It's like they are there for the opening, then they are gone. Other than that, it was a beautiful movie visually, and the story was interesting. I would suggest going to see it. I'll buy the blu-ray when
it comes out, it I don't think I'll see this movie in theaters more than once.
Mary and the Witch's Flower is on par with the Ghibli classics. As the first work by Studio Ponoc, Mary serves as the default flagship of the studio. As such, a lot of expectations were placed on this movie. Given Studio Ponoc's unproven nature, I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. I feared that I would perhaps find this movie to be lacklustre and uninspired. Instead what I got was a film that rivals some of the best works from Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki.
Similar to my favourite Ghibli films, the best part of Mary's story is how her character grows throughout.
The story starts with the protagonist Mary Smith, having recently moved, living with her Great Aunt as well as a maid and a gardener. Her attempts to help with housework and gardening go poorly and to add insult to injury she is teased by a local boy, named Peter, for her frizzy red hair. It's very apparent by the end of the movie that Mary has grown as a character. Originally she views herself as useless and talent-less, this is symbolized by her hatred of her own hair. When magical talent is thrust upon her by means of the titular Witch's Flower, she gains confidence. This gained confidence is perhaps undeserved as Mary only gained her powers by chance. Later, after her talent is stripped away by losing the Witch's Flower, is when she has to face her greatest challenges. Instead of relying on the gifted talent from the Witch's Flower, Mary has to overcome these challenges using her newfound confidence as well as other positive traits such as courage, ingenuity, and staying true to her convictions. Watching the main character gain confidence over the course of the movie is a super satisfying experience that is reminiscent of my favourite Ghibli protagonists; Chihiro from Spirited Away and Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service. They both have similar character growth in their films.
If you want to teach a lesson in a children's film, it should not be too blatant. Any themes should flow seamlessly with the plot and should avoid becoming too much of a focus at the risk of making the film seem preachy. Mary and the Witch's Flower does not have this problem. The primary theme in Mary is probably the dangers of recklessly pursuing scientific advancement. Endor College's experiments on animals are shown as being reckless and unethical. Although these experiments use magic instead of science, it is still easy to make this comparison given that magic is compared to science in the film. Mumblechook, the school's headmistress, explains that electricity is just another form of magic and the character of Doctor Dee is very reminiscent of a mad scientist. It's important to note that the villains are not portrayed as maliciously evil but rather as misguided and with good intentions. The villains are very obsessive over the Witch's Flower which reminded me of Gollum's obsession with the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. As the villains are somewhat transformed by their obsession with the flower it becomes easy to empathize with them. It also adds some moral ambiguity to the story and themes which I prefer rather than having a blatantly unapologetic evil villain.
When commenting on his character design for Mary, Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi expressed that he wanted Mary's outward appearance to reflect her inner feelings. He achieved this by giving her large bushy eyebrows and a large mouth. Those physical characteristics are a great fit for her tomboyish personality. However the best and most obvious characteristic of Mary is her bright red messy hair. As stated earlier, Mary's hair acts somewhat as a metaphor for her own character growth. At the beginning of the film she hates her hair and the teasing it causes her. To mitigate this she ties her hair back with bows. Later, at Endor College, she is praised for her hair's uniqueness and rarity with Madame Mumblechook claiming red is the ideal hair colour for a witch. Near the end of the film she removes her bows and lets her hair down in a beautiful shot that is a metaphor for her confidence and conviction that she has gained. In addition to its symbolic qualities, Mary's hair is just really beautiful and nice to look at. Throughout the film I found my attention drawn to her hair. Some of the best moments in the film feature Mary's hair prominently. Mary's hatred of her own hair is absolutely adorable and reminded me of the protagonist from the classic novel Anne of Green Gables. It's very clear that Peter likes Mary's hair despite his teasing of her. The interactions between Peter and Mary are just adorable to watch. Peter also humorously compares Mary's appearance to a monkey. This joke is brought back later when an actual red haired monkey appears leading to one of the funniest moments in the movie.
The animation in Mary and the Witch's Flower is comparable to that of Ghibli's works. If you are not familiar, Ghibli is well known for its very high quality. Ghibli has a unique style and feel to their work that Mary and the Witch's Flower also possesses. The studio that made Mary and the Witch's Flower consists mostly of former Ghibli staff so the similarities are not unexpected. My favourite part of the animation are Mary's facial expressions and hair.
It is hard to find a weak-point in the film. Every frame seems to fulfill a purpose. Nothing in the film felt like a waste of space or time. In fact my biggest complaint about the film is that I wish it was longer. At the movie's current length it is absolutely packed with content. There is not a single dull moment. The limitations of the kid's movie format means that Mary and the Witch's Flower is probably at its maximum potential length as is. It certainly feels to me like content had to be cut to get down to the 102 minute run-time.
From black cats to broomsticks, everything you expect from a witch themed anime is present here. Despite the fact that I am an adult male and the target audience for witch themed things are young girls, I still find myself a huge fan of the witch aesthetic. Ghibli has done witches before with Kiki's Delivery Service and Endor College seems inspired by Little Witch Academia's Luna Nova or Harry Potter's Hogwarts, but whatever Mary and the Witch's Flower lacks in originality it makes up for in execution. The design of Endor College in particular is very whimsical and fantastical. Endor College is comparable to some of the best settings that Ghibli has created such as Laputa or the bathhouse from Spirited Away. On the other end of the spectrum the design of the real world is also very well done. The movie is set in rural England in the 1960s or 1970s and they did a wonderful job of recreating that. Mary's home has the aesthetic of a grandmother's house and it is just so well crafted that it fills me with nostalgia. The voice acting also goes a long way for the setting. All the characters speak with British accents. This movie may be better to watch dubbed due to the fact that the movie has a British setting and that the English language cast includes 2 Academy Award winners. Despite my praise for the English version, I haven't had the chance to watch the movie with the Japanese audio, so I'm not confident in saying which language this film is better to watch in definitively.
Overall the strongest thing I can say about Mary and the Witch's Flower is that it made me feel the same emotions that I've felt when watching my favourite works from Studio Ghibli. Mary's character growth is extremely satisfying to watch unfold and reminded me of my favourite Ghibli characters. The themes in the film are not overly preachy and I appreciated the moral ambiguity of the central conflict. Mary's character design is Ghibli-esque but her adorable yet fiery red hair sets her apart. The animation quality is excellent and really pleasurable to watch. The film is thoroughly entertaining throughout all 102 minutes. The worlds featured in the film are both whimsical and fantastical on one hand, while being down-to-earth, quaint, and nostalgic on the other. Studio Ponoc completely succeeded in making a film that contains all the things that made me fall in love with Studio Ghibli.
It's really sad when you know your favorite studio anime have already separately from each other, AND yet Studio Ghibli vs. Studio Ponoc.
Of course, this Mary and the Witch’s Flower is created by Studio Ponoc. As you can see their artsyle it doesn't any different with Ghibli Studio and all the worldbuilding in this movie, they're also learned by Studio Ghibli. So you could call this movie's rip-off from Kiki's Delivery Service and Little Witch Academia.
I admit that I'm truly enjoyed this movie even though I kinda sad about those studio condition (Ghibli & Ponoc), it seem they're become sibling rivalry.
Thanks Hiromasa Yonebayashi because you could manage this movie very well and "Mary and the Witch’s Flower" is totally decent movie.
If you love fantasy movie or you're fanboy & fangirl of Studio Ghibli. Try watching this rip-off movie.
Mary and the Witch's Flower is the inaugural film from Studio Ponoc and the 3rd directorial effort from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose previous films include the respectable Ghibli efforts The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There.
Being essentially an offshoot of Ghibli, you can immediately see the visual cues Ponoc borrows from its roots. In many ways, it is as if nothing changed. From an animation standpoint, this film may as well have been made by Ghibli staff - but I say this not as a criticism, as not only will it take time for Ponoc to develop its own style, but this anime
is a fantastic visual feast. Gorgeous backgrounds, excellent attention to every detail and nuance accompanied by fluid and breathtaking animation is what you can epxect from Mary and the Witch's Flower (MATWF).
Unfortunately, this is where the comparisons to Ghibli go from being a worthy tribute to a pale imitation.
There are many common themes in Ghibli films that Mary and the Witch's Flower attempts to replicate - the core one being essentially the same journey that Sen takes in Spirited Away. A clumsy, naive little girl bored by her mundane life is unwittingly whisked away to a magical place that will be the setting of her coming-of-age story.
The set-up for this is perfect - in fact, many ideas presented to the audience in MATWF are enticing. The problem is that movie barely does anything with them, and we are left with a very hollow story and anti-climactic third act. The world of the witches and magic that Mary encounters is just barely explored as she faces her trials, and somehow even manages to be boring at times despite its fantastical themes and overdose of whimsy.
As much as I don't want to continue to compare Ponoc to Ghibli, I feel the best example is again the comparison of characters between Mary and Sen. In Spirited Away, Sen spends the majority of the film in Yubaba's bath house, and meets many memorable and interesting characters while living there. Each one helps her a little bit on her journey - she learns something, makes a new friend, takes another step closer to becoming the movie's hero. You learn a lot about the inner workings of this ethereal yet perilous labyrinth of a bath house that she inhabits. Miyazaki has always been a master of setting and applying it to a character's journey.
In MATWF, it will be no surprise to you that Mary is endowed with the power of a witch. Her magical broom flies her to the "Endor College of Magic" - an absurdly massive school in the clouds full of what seems to be hundreds if not thousands of students learning to become witches. Yet Mary only interacts with no more than 3 people while there, and most of the time it feels empty - aside from some animals and autonomous magical servants that don't utter a word. We get a glimpse of life in the college, but only that and nothing else. Ultimately, everything we see at Endor is nothing but an almost unnecessary loose end.
A great example of this is when Mary visits Endor for the first time. Before entering, she is informed that Endor has very strict rules, written on a giant stone plaque outside its gates. The audience and Mary cannot read it because it's written in some magical language. The first rule is read to Mary, but the others are left unread because they get interrupted. Yet not only do we never learn the other rules to Endor, the first rule ends up being entirely irrelevant to the main plot despite its supposed importance.
I could nitpick the movie and its little faults, but its ultimate failing was the story arc of Mary. Early in the film, Mary meets a boy named Peter. If I must make another Spirited Away comparison here, he is basically the movie's Haku, except that he's basically nothing more than a helpless pawn with no real attachment to Mary.
Peter and Mary don't really get along - in fact, they are not even friends, just acquaintances who tease eachother. After interacting with eachother in real life for all of 5 minutes, eventually Mary accidentally puts Peter in great danger and decides to rescue him - she suddenly cares greatly for him as if they were good friends, and act like totally different people than when we last saw them together.
While there is motivation for Mary to rescue Peter, it lacks conviction from the weak script. There just needed to be more of what mattered and less of the spectacle. The story feels rushed and cobbled together, sometimes even confusing. As far as Yonebayashi goes, it's definitely a step backwards when it comes to characters.
Perhaps it is part of the growing pains of transitioning to a new studio. Perhaps it is difficult to succeed without the constant guidance of masters like Miyazaki and Takehata. Perhaps it's both. Whatever it is, I hope for the best for the future of Studio Ponoc - living under the shadow of Ghibli is not easy. They stumbled a bit out the gate, but there's no mistake that Ponoc employs incredible talent. If they take some time to reflect on what went wrong with MATWF and how to do it right, there's no reason why they cannot build on it.
Overall, the movie is not altogether terrible. It is a bit of a bore to watch at times, the script lacks subtlety and the moral of the story is ambiguous at best, but it has its heart in the right place and should be a joy for small children, especially young girls. The opening flashback sequence is a great hook (and honestly looked like it would have been a more intriguing film), the animation and backgrounds are fantastic and there are moments of genuine laughs and charm, but they are sometimes far apart.
It is, for all intents and purposes, merely decent.
I would say don't go in expecting a Ghibli film, but even if it looked nothing like one, I don't think that would change much.
The opening scene was fantastic to watch, too bad Mary's adventure wasn't as wonderful as the first scene. She starts off as a bored, lonely kid who appears to have depression. She has no friends, no parents at the moment, no games, no T.V., nothing to entertain her so she offers to help out around the house instead but she messes everything up. Are these people poor or something? Why doesn't Mary have games or toys to play with?
The characters seem pretty inconsistent and I'll tell you why here. Mary is a petulant and dishonest character. She despises Peter and shows no respect to him
after he mocked her red hair. I understand that she is a young girl who is desperate to have friends and when she found herself in conflict with a boy around her age who isn't very nice to her, she lashes out at him, but I still think she could've been written to be a little more nicer. Also, she told Tib she would feed him milk. If I'm correct, milk isn't good for cats. Since Mary is naive, maybe she doesn't know how to take care of one.
She even lies about how great her day is when she gets home and then has to go save Peter. I feel that this is filler, maybe there could've been another reason for why she had to go back to college or they could've just shortened the film. But due to the film's fast pace, the film does feel shorter.
Mary's relationship with Peter was pretty shallow. How did Mary start off hating Peter and holding a grudge against him, then the minute she hears he's in trouble, she starts caring for him as a friend? This sort of relationship has been done many times in animated films, with a character starting off hating and whining about someone they don't like, then they become the best of friends.
At least the dub was pretty good, the characters actually sounded British instead of Americans.
There were too many rehashes to other Ghibli movies, in certain parts, the movie has scenes that recall Spirited and Howl's Moving Castle for example. I think it's time to do something new. I know it's by Ghibli animators but they shouldn't be making recalls to their older films. It just makes an already cliched film feel repetitive.
I couldn't find many positive things about this movie. I did like the fantastical elements and the action but that was about it. The film was silly and predictable, I feel that a younger audience would appreciate it but adults would probably feel it's childish.
Fun and simple stories are always welcomed. Children’s fantasy as a genre fits these two things perfectly. We’ve all grew up with these timeless tales that transformed us at our early stage of our development. There was once a time in anime, specifically in the 70s, where studios adapted old children’s literature from the late 19th to early 20th century. Mary and the Witch’s Flower gives off these vibes from my experience viewing it.
This is the first animated feature by Studio Ponoco, a studio founded by former Studio Ghibli lead producer Yoshiaki Nishimura and several staffers that joined him after Ghibli decided to pause all
production for re-evaluation. Mary and the Witch’s Flower shows the true intention of Studio Ponoco, to continue the legacy of the Ghibli style of animation in case Ghibli decides to go belly up, at least that is my own interpretation. They know that if Hayao Miyakzaki and Isao Takahata are gone, Ghibli is done for. With all of the talent they brought from Ghibli to make this film, do they succeed in capturing the essence of a great Ghibli film? In the briefest answer I can give: they do capture the technical aspects of a Ghibli film 100%, but not the spirit of it.
When people think of a Ghibli film, they think of not only how beautiful the animation is but how memorable characters are and how its story grabs you through the end. Mary and the Witch’s Flower only gets half of it right. I would say that is disappointing to think about as this is their debut. However, I would not say that the story and characters are awful by any stretch. They just do not reach that higher echelon that many people would expect out of the people formerly from Studio Ghibli.
It is definitely one of the most beautiful animated films I’ve seen in many years and in the entire Ghibli film library. Already from the opening scene I was hooked by how tremendous the fluidity of the character movements looked and the colors from the magical spells. Seeing a character fly their broom stick was riveting to experience, it almost felt like I was flying with them. It still has a lot of fun Ghibli tropes we love like messy hair and how characters react to any situation. The creativity of the spells and the creatures are always cool to see and shows that they have not skipped a beat in making these weird strange anomalies that made Ghibli unique.
I saw this in a movie theater where they showed it with the English dubbing. To its credit, the dubbing is actually pretty good. It was really cool to listen to characters with English accents in an anime film, especially one that is based on a story written in England. Ruby Barnhill as Mary is great as her, Ewen Bremmer is hilarious as Flanagan, and Kate Winslet is nearly unrecognizable as Madame Mumblechook.
Despite my previous remark on the characters being flawed, I actually thought Mary was a fine heroine. She was funny whenever she acted like a tough girl who gets annoyed at all the frivolous things that you would expect a little girl to do. Her clumsiness was always fun to see as well. It gave some bit of charm to her that made me smile throughout. Now how they write her storywise is a whole other situation.
Unfortunately the rest of the characters do not come off as very memorable in the slightest. The villains are probably the most forgettable I have seen in any Ghibli film. Their motivations for their actions are not explored very well except by the fact that they just want to create an abomination based on magic flowers for god knows what reason. It just came off as a lazy way of creating a conflict for our heroes. It is common for many children’s stories to have villains with half-baked intentions for their evil actions but that should not be a reason to defend poor writing. I am not asking for anything incredibly deep, just give me a little bit more to care about their intent but the film failed to do so.
David is the male “co-star” of the film and I use in air quotes because he is not given much for us to care about him. One of the biggest flaws about the film is the relationship between him and Mary. At first Mary does not like David because he pokes fun at her by calling her a red monkey because of her messy red hair and they constantly argue. It was funny to see I will admit that, but then later on (without spoiling anything) when something happens to David, all of a sudden Mary acts all worried and wants to save him as if he was her best friend. The way it was paced, it seemed as though the writers did not bother to build up a rekindled bond between Mary and David mid-way through the story. Had the film taken at least fifteen minutes to develop them, this problem would have been remedied. Not to mention David constitutes only about 1/3rd of the entire film so we are not really given enough room to care about him at the end of it.
The simple nature of the story might seem like a positive or a negative depending on how you view children’s stories. I am part of the half that believes children can handle some depth to whatever entertainment or story that is given to them. If they had just given a little bit more development with the characters and paced it a little better, this could have been a tremendous debut for Studio Ponoc. But no, all we have is a film that is only good but not great.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower might be a disappointment, but in hindsight I don’t think it needed be anything groundbreaking. This was simply a film that Studio Ponoc needed to make to get their feet wet so that they can construct themselves into a powerhouse studio like Ghibli. The technical aspects of it are definitely there. All they need is a better story and pace it slower so that the characters can have some breathing room to develop. This is one step from Studio Ponoc to achieve greater things and this film is at least a good/decent display of what is to come in the future. Whatever disappointment there is to the film for me, it is only minor.
I got exactly what I expected; a bit of a weird plot, but a lot of really fun ideas backed up by some spectacular animation talent.
The main draw of the movie is pretty simple; it's visually stunning. It's got high speed action scenes, fascinating locations, and my personal favorite, incredibly charming character moments. I absolutely loved seeing the cat glare at the camera at random moments, or Mary pat her hair after getting complimented on it for the first time, or the broom bounce around, or a robot roll its eyes over its head. These moments have very little to do with the story, but
I couldn't help but keep my eyes peeled for them because they absolutely made the movie for me.
The story was...simple, and for the most part I don't have a problem with that, I always understood what was going on and could therefore let my focus go to the aforementioned visuals. The one thing that did bug me however was how no meaningful progress was made during the second act. Stuff certainly happens, but the main character doesn't learn from it, and we start the third act no closer to achieving her goal of rescuing Peter. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was a distraction and they could have avoided that by structuring the film differently.
All in all though, really fun time, I heartily recommend it, and this is only 40% of Studio Ponoc's power
The film is another unfortunate example of what could have been.
Studio Ponoc consists of the veteran staff (from Ghibli shutting down) and at it's very best you have the wonderful fluid animation. However, the crucial problem with Mary and the Witch's Flower was the story and script. You have interesting character designs and a ripe world ready for world building. There's some great sequences but without the writing to back it up, it's all flash and no substance.
Characters were all one note. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but when the core drama revolves around a bland main character, there's nothing to grab onto. Mary
discovers a witch flower and she only reacts to the events that follow. She doesn't have any motivation so when one does appear, it becomes hamfisted and she changes personality. I'm still frustrated with the 'twist' halfway through. All the interesting stuff is relegated to a flashback and I'd rather see that film instead. Hell, I'd follow the random broom keeper. The film didn't really explain why he was there either but at least he had had his eccentricities.
Next up is the setting: The wonderful set pieces are spoiled and there's no real sense of place. Hayao Miyazaki was notorious for crafting layouts from top to bottom and even his son Goro always made sure to keep his films vibrant. However, this film felt really empty. The town consisted of the gardener, the grandma, Peter, and Mary. Even the crazy witch school didn't feel right. By the time the third act rolled around, it stretched out for far too long and I couldn't really bring myself to care as much as I wanted to.
TLDR; Overall, this gets a 6 to a mid 5/10. While it is visually great, everything else from the characters and story was middling to fine. The most interesting aspects are relegated to a flashback at the end of the second act and the rest is a lot of wasted potential. I'd say it's a hard skip.
This film is very average, the main character Mary is great however the rest of the movie falls short. This is Studio Ponoc’s first film, which consists of some ex Studio Ghibli members. After hearing that Studio Ghibli is possibly no longer making films, I was excited to see their legacy continue in Studio Ponoc. Unfortunately Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a little disappointing, but not a bad start to Studio Ponoc.
Mary is a fantastic character who’s a lot of fun to watch. She is a care free young girl who doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She is constantly complaining about how she
doesn’t like her hair, and she’s quite clumsy like when she accidentally killed some roses when trying to help in the garden, these certainly don’t help with her confidence. And yet she still tries to help others when she can, even if there are mistakes along the way, and eventually this pays off as she gradually becomes more confident in who she is.
Unfortunately the other characters in the film are very one dimensional and boring. Especially Peter, Mary’s friend who is barely on screen and when he’s in the climax, we the audience don’t really care about him. Mary’s grand auntie is also barely on screen, and all she does is provide exposition without developing her character. And the headmistress of the magic school, her motives are not very clear, and it was explained in a poorly put together monologue near the end of the film.
The story is very easy to follow, although the pacing is mixed. The story follows Mary and her adventures after she finds the witch’s flowers. The beginning to the film is very slow and dull, although it gets more interesting later on. The start of the film begun at Mary’s home, it introduces many characters, unfortunately we don’t see these characters very much of later on. The start feels like it’s being dragged on too long unnecessarily. Although most of the film was well paced. The scenes at Endor College were exciting, and also showed a sense of mystery about what the headmistress is really doing. The scenes where Mary faces multiple problems at the Endor College were shown really well too.
Unfortunately the ending was disappointing. There was no build up to the final confrontation, we only learnt of the reasons behind the final act very late in the film and this wasn’t hinted at much at all, this was mostly explained to us during a monologue which felt too forced.
The animation is stunning in every scene, the effort to detail is astonishingly brilliant and very Studio Ghibli like. The animation at Endor College especially was fantastic, the detail in the magical aspects of the film was spot on, whether it’s the water features, or the classrooms. The colours were really bright and vibrant and stood out really well.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower has stunning animation with a clear story, and it’s main character Mary is fantastic. However the pacing was mixed and the rest of the cast certainly let the film down. Although this was a mostly entertaining movie. This is a very ambitious attempt for Studio Ponoc’s first film considering they’re trying to carry on Studio Ghibli’s legacy. Even though Mary and the Witch’s Flower isn’t up to Studio Ghibli’s best standard, this isn’t a bad film, and I’ll be looking forward to what Studio Ponoc does next.
Constructive feedback for this review is appreciated :)
MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER (メアリと魔女の花 / Mary to Majo no Hana) is the debut feature from Studio Ponoc. If the look of the movie seems familiar, that’s for good reason. Studio Ponoc was founded by and employs several key figures from Studio Ghibli, the famed animation studio that gave us the classic works of Hayao Miyazaki: Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and (my all-time favorite) Kiki’s Delivery Service. Among those former-Ghibli members are Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Takeshi Imamura, who serve as Mary’s writer/director and supervising animator, respectively. So, with that kind of pedigree, Mary must be flippin’ amazing, right? Alas, I’m sorry to say that
just isn’t the case.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, please understand this isn’t a bad movie. Not at all. It just isn’t *great*, which is something you want to expect from a talent like Hiromasa Yonebayashi (who also directed The Secret World of Arrietty). The first half of Mary and the Witch’s Flower is, quite frankly, an uneven mess. The tone is all over the place, jumping from supernatural action to quiet countryside life to magical school in the sky, all within the span of 40-50 minutes. Let’s talk about Endor College for a moment. Even though the concept of a “school for wizards and witches” has reached the point of oversaturation and cliché, that’s not my main problem with it. Rather, the mere existence of this school is *completely irrelevant* to the main plot of this movie. It’s bad enough that I was supremely bored by Mary’s endless tour of the school’s classes and facilities. But to later find out none of that really mattered, other than it just being the location where all the main action happens? That’s just sloppy and annoying.
Thankfully, the movie dramatically improves halfway through the second act. Once the actual conflict was introduced, I got fully onboard and enjoying the ride. And there is *thrilling* stuff here. Every broom flight sequence is exquisite and memorable. The animation and music are stunningly gorgeous. And then there’s Mister Flanagan, a character so charming and enjoyable, I just wanted to see more of him as the credits rolled.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower may not be a home run, but it definitely shows a lot of promise for Studio Ponoc. Things should get really interesting in 2020, when Miyazaki’s first movie since retirement is expected to release. Until then, I remain eager to see what Studio Ponoc delivers next. The talent is there. I just want to see them create something truly original.
Writing my short review after watching this movie in theaters. Well, to be frank, this is just an above average movie.
Now let's start with the story. The story is what you get in every Ghibli movie ever. There's absolutely nothing special about it. If you are a fan of Ghibli movie, then you might feel nostalgic watching this movie because it combines a lot of elements that made you like Ghibli's movie, but it stopped there, they did nothing new with those concepts. If you haven't watched any Ghibli movie before, then I bet this movie will give you a lot of Harry Potter vibes,
or if you have watched Little Witch Academia, then this kinda packed a similar setting with it.
The characters are fairy decent too. You have your main character who thought that she wasn't worth anything until she went to this magical land and found out that she has the greatest magic power there because of the help of a random plant she found at the middle of nowhere. Our "love interest", I put the "" because it really isn't confirmed but it was hinted, is just your typical love interest in every kids movie ever. Nothing special. So are the main villains, they are just cardboard cutouts you can find in other movies, doing all the things the did because of their own need.
However, what makes this movie so much more bearable is the art and animation. The art looks gorgeous. Each scene is well drawn and if your expectations aren't too high, the art will easily satisfy you. The animation too is fluid. If you are a huge Ghibli fan, then I bet this part won't disappoint you. This level of art and animation is extremely praise-able for a studio's first project.
The music is heartwarming, well-placed and suit the entire mood of the movie well. I have no complaints on this area. It didn't particularly stood out to me, but when watching the movie, I found no issue with the music.
Overall, Mary to Majo no Hana/Mary and the Witch's Flower is an above average movie, but at the same time is also an excellent movie for a studio's first anime. I will recommend this movie if you like Ghibli movie and want to get the same feeling in some other movie this year or to those who wants a movie like Little Witch Academia.
I recently saw this movie this past weekend, and I would like to say it's a pretty decent film. The beginning was amazing, very captivating.
I thought it was very childish, but that makes sense since it is a younger adult film. The characters are alright, but altogether, the story and plot were a bit dull. The story sort of jumps around and doesn't engage the audience.
similar art to Ghibli, lots of the scenes are quite beautiful.
It has a wonderful soundtrack, which I feel makes up for the story. It goes well placed with each scene.
There's little character development
and the protagonist is a little hard to love.
Let’s be straightforward and admit this was a plain solid film, about a 7.5 in my book, but not near good enough if you’re expecting Miyazaki standards.
You will hear people say this film didn’t have “heart”, which is not quantifiable yet is the best description for the fallbacks of this film.
Note: I feel unfair comparing Ghibli to rate the film, but its the best way to help convey the setbacks some are feeling.
I adore Studio Ghibli. I grew up with it, I admire Hayao Miyazaki’s work, I admire Joe Hisaishi’s work, I’ve rewatched Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle too many
times and was a huge fan of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which overviews the interworking of Studio Ghibli’s process.
I watched the theatre dub of this film and I’m going to, to the best of my ability, explain why others and myself felt this film lacked “heart” but definitely had the potential impact of that of its Ghibli predecessor.
Story & Characters (6/10):
Overall, this is what sets the film back. (There's a tldr at the bottom, I feel like I'm ranting in this section)
If you watched The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, you know Miyazaki’s process is very very organic. He doesn’t know the ending of the film until finishing the last storyboard and the film is made while he is storyboarding. It shows how much consideration he takes for these worlds and these characters. His films have multiple plots and character journeys because that’s how life works, right? A story is never just a main character going into mischief and people just letting it happen. Its a correlation of many character events clashing into a larger story.
[[Chihiro meets a spoiled son that learns to be selfless when turned into a rat. A no-face character that just wants a home but turns malicious when placed in a life of luxury. A river spirit is enslaved after losing his home to pollution but is saved by a girl he met years ago.]]
Now with Mary and the Witch’s Flower, this isn’t the case.
The story follows Mary. And follows Mary. And follows Mary some more.
The adults of the film, not from the Witch Academy, are either out and about running errands, worrying about Mary, or going to work. Then there’s Peter, a village neighbor, that exists purely as a plot device for Mary’s flaws and, eventually, her revelation. He’s defined early in the story as sweet and hardworking and he doesn’t become anything else after the fact. [[He is brave and loyal as well, but those are revealed traits later on]]
All the characters in this film are fully developed with no internal arcs except for their events around the Witch’s Flower. Mary is the only one, in the entire film, that really evolves, so we, as an audience, grow with her. She starts with an internal struggle of not being good at anything and disliking her appearance of large frizzy hair. Then she goes on this adventure into a Witch School that praises her for skills she doesn’t truly possess. Then towards the end of the story she accepts who she is, and realizes power and praise are only satisfying when she’s being true to herself.
In a way, this film could have worked with focusing on just Mary, but there wasn’t that organic journey of Mary becoming more independent and loving herself and perhaps finding her true strengths before she was off fighting. Instead she went home after day one and laughed off the whole ordeal, and had self love for her hair but there was nothing said about her insecurities at being bad at everything she does. The plot just ran ahead of her to the next action sequence.
So, there isn’t much attention to characters, so whats holding this movie like glue? Well it has to be the plot. And considering how smart audiences are today it would have to be rather fun and intriguing to keep attention.
The first scene in the film did this the best but the rest struggled to keep a consistent tone.
So here is the plot in very simple terms:
Intro powerful item, steal from bad guys, lose item for a long time, intro protagonist’s desires and flaws, protagonist finds item, protagonist seemingly happy however bad guys ruin it, item stolen again by bad guys, protagonist feels helpless, karma points helps save the day, protagonist must save the day without powerful item, proclaim a life lesson.
Not a bad plot, but basic enough you wonder what makes this film so special? What would make audiences talk about the story? Where is the “heart”, the connection, that resonates in other Ghibli films?
Lets talk villains.
Miyazaki films are very wholesome for always redeeming their villains. They’re always people who make mistakes or were pushed into difficult situations that become unraveled by the protagonist. Sometimes they’re just greedy, but in the end they realize their flaws and work to bettering themselves in some manner.
This film made villains for the sake of villains, and it was rather disappointing.
Its explained in a flashback. Two teachers at the academy are introduced to the Witch’s Flower and become obsessed and consumed.
Honestly, this explanation sounds fine on paper. But when you see the film, there is an attention to detail to the world building that creates expectation for more explanation.
These teachers, prior to the flower, were kind and intelligent. The academy helped further witches and warlocks in all levels of magic to further their studies and these two teachers were at the forefront.
Then the flower is just plucked out of no where and they go stir crazy with experiments to make the most powerful witches the world has every seen. But to what end? Is magic dying? Is there a reason powerful magic is needed?
Did their obsession to improve their students extend to creating THE best students ever known? Its a such selfless strange obsession that it barely holds up as a motivation to antagonize two children and mangle dozens of animals in experiments. Perhaps if there was a competing school? Or a competition of sorts?
TLDR; No character depth beyond the protagonist, antagonists exist to be antagonists, the plot is very basic with a beginning middle and end, and the lack of heart comes from the lack of internal character arcs so the audience cant find a connection with anyone.
There was too much expositional dialogue as a form of world building. Ponac has amazing talent for visuals— use them, use them, use them. Their characters seem to say things for the sake of saying something, so there was a lack of realism.
Then, there’s that rule in fantasy. You explain all of it, or you don’t try at all. Otherwise you create expectations for the readers and suddenly you’re riddled with holes.
The film tried on occasion to explain magic,[[one point mentioning electricity to be a form of magic…which is okay, thats fine]] but it never explained why magic just…existed in the sky? Is there a society somewhere? Is it like Kiki’s Delivery Service, and these kids leave home and live in isolated areas to specialize in their skills? Magic can be acquired through a flower, but it seems to have to be inherited? Are witches a dying breed? Are they worried about losing magic?
The world of magic itself was so isolated to the one school, it never really explained the general important questions, instead it narrowed the audience’s view to only see the actions within the school as a plot point. Which is fine, as far as writing goes, but it detracts from the immersion.
No doubt it’s a gorgeous film and obviously descended from Ghibli. I love the style and every scene has great detail. I would never doubt their skills as animators.
I liked the soundtrack. I was very much reminded of Harry Potter when they used a hammered dulcimer for “Night Flight” and when Mary entered the Academy. It creates that tinkling sound which I think everyone relates to “oooh look magic is happening”. In Harry Potter they used a synthesizer and a celeste so this instrument was really beautiful and unique.
Well, thats that. Honestly, its still a lovely movie and solid for a new studio, I just think they need a stronger lead in future films on why they’re making these movies. The plots need revising and their characters need more depth.
- zamandzoe's Anime Reviews: Season 2 ~ Review 1 -
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
Normally, it would be acceptable for a studio's first film to be far from perfect. However, when you have people from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli working on your film, you're asking to be compared to them from the get go.
As much as I'd want to deny this claim, it seems that Miyazaki was the key to much of Ghibli's success.
On it's own, Mary and the Witch's Flower's story is flat. The pacing is all over the place, and any
world building falls flat on it's face. By all means, it's "passable" but it's far from engaging. We are introduced to a "normal" world followed by a magical realm of sorts that exists inside it. Notably, we see a full tour of the school which would leave you to believe that it would be a key asset of this film's world.
But it's not. Following the tour of a well-crafted and inspired school, it is completely dropped from the story. Soon after that, we see a house in the middle of nowhere that once belonged to a witch from long ago. That witch happened to steal a valuable item from the school, but other than what is said at face value, we never get a deeper explanation about why that happened.
Those were only some of the story's problems. Honestly, a film could pass with a lackluster plot and still be pretty good, but that means that it would need to be good in every other aspect.
Art and Sound: 8
If there's one thing this film did get from Ghibli, it's the art style and the sound. Though basic in this day and age, the style works well and a few still shots make the world at least feel alive. The sound compliments this, and makes intense scenes feel like it matters... Even though the characters make it seem otherwise.
This is where the film falls flat in every way. We are supposed to like Mary, the protagonist, but all she does is act like a brat in the beginning and magically redeems herself by the end. The film could've gone in an interesting direction with her telling a lie that changes the course of the plot, but it ignores this.
As for every other character, they hardly classify as one. No development is to be found, they only do the minimum that the film requires them to do.
Ultimately, this is subjective. For me, the pretty scenery and above average soundtrack was enough for me to remain interested. That may not apply to everyone. If you absolutely need an engaging plot, then you won't find it here. The same applies for the characters.
Is this a bad movie? No. Is it a great movie? No. Should you watch it? Sure, why not?
If you want a reason to appreciate Ghibli, then watch this film. It will make you realize how magical they were.
Otherwise, this film is pretty generic and not that noteworthy. It plays everything safe and takes no risks. As such, it is clear that replicating Ghibli came first, while being original was second.
If you have the chance to watch it on a big screen (theater), then it's probably worth a watch. The animation is very good and so is the soundtrack.
I have seen a lot of discussion on the topic of Studio Ponoc becoming the “new Ghibli”. I do not think they can fill such shoes, but rather would like to view them as a competitor. They share the same style, and a lot of the staff (at least for this movie), so that much is warranted. Anyways, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is actually a great debut work for the studio.
- Great animation. Studio Ponoc did a really good job in the animation department for their debut work here. The movie looks and feels so much like a Ghibli movie that it is almost
criminal. Considering where the director comes from, it should not really come as much of a surprise. The colors are vibrant, the world feels alive, and there were several scenes where I was just in awe at the animation (especially the water scenes).
- Beautiful soundtrack. Takatsugu Muramatsu does it again. I absolutely loved his work on When Marnie Was There, so I had a lot to look forward to when I heard he would be composing the soundtrack for Mary and the Witch’s Flower. He certainly did not disappoint! It reminded me a lot of the Arrietty soundtrack, more so than the soundtrack for Marnie. Even so, the soundtrack was excellent throughout, bringing to life this fantasy world portrayed through the already magical animation. My favorite track ended up being “Magic Science”.
- Generic story. This movie is adapted from a children’s book, so I did not have the highest of expectations going into it. Cannot say I was surprised with how the story turned out, it was just your generic children’s fantasy tale. It is not necessarily a bad thing either, as this movie’s selling points are elsewhere, but do not go into this movie expecting the story to blow you away.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a respectable debut work for Studio Ponoc. It definitely establishes them as a studio to rival Ghibli in the future, at least when it comes to style. I recommend it for that aspect alone. Hopefully we can get more works like this from them in the future!
This is something you should definitely watch. It captures a great sense of wonder, and is exciting to watch.
The art is spectacular, with the animation to match. So many things move together to make the fantasy world feel alive through clever use of sharp editing and lively backgrounds. Of course, the animation and emotion conveyed through the characters faces and body language.
If you're a fan of good animation, this is a must
Something I appreciated on the story side was it didn't devolve into a typical magical school movie. Instead, they spend just enough time establishing the school and Mary's place in it
before moving on with the story.
First of all, if you have any interest in seeing this movie, you should totally watch it. I thought it was overall a very enjoyable experience, and I had a lot of fun watching it, especially on the big screen. The animation was a lot better than I expected, and it's pretty much just 100 minutes of scenery porn. I went in knowing almost nothing about the plot, and the events that happened were a lot more fun than I was expecting. I don't know why, but I was actually expecting less magic? Sounds weird, I know, but I was expecting it to be more
down-to-earth with fantastic elements, when in reality the entire setting was magial and pretty cool. Also the English dub was good.
The things that bothered me about this movie, without going into too much detail, basically boil down to all of the human characters being really, really stupid and all of the animal characters being omniscient deus-ex-machina devices (albeit fun and charming deus-ex-machina devices). And the way magic works not being well-established. You basically want the villains to win because their plan is awesome and very well-intentioned, but of course no-one in this movie is smart enough to not fail catastrophically. The ending message, "we don't need magic," is very strange as well since electricity and chemistry are apparently magic in this universe so you absolutely do.